‘Shashti Poorthi’ refers to a Hindu ritual that is celebrated when the male partner completes his 60th birthday. It is regarded as a renewal of marital vows and marks the transition from the material to the spiritual world.
The event is marked by the celebration of second round of marriage rituals and it is organized with great fanfare by the children for their parents. It also sees a grand reunion with one’s family and friends.
It was in 1997, when I was studying in my S. Y. B. Sc. class at college, I attended a ‘Shashti Poorthi’ function in the family of one of our close friends. I went along with my parents to attend the same and it was the first time that I realized the significance of this event. Nearly two decades after the event, my memories are as fresh as if I attended it only yesterday.
Typical of any such function it started fairly early in the morning. The family’s home was filled with people – distant relatives had found the inclination to make it to the event and greet the family. The morning hour also saw the rush of many friends – office goers doing a quick trip before they went to work. ‘Uncle-Aunty’ had arrived in Pune as a newly married couple in the late 1950s and the event marked a culmination of the relationships they had built up in the past 40 years.
My friend and his younger brother were the chief organizers of the event and they were aided by an assorted group of family and friends. Being close family friends I knew them very well. Uncle was now retired and his children were in well-settled careers. He was very fond of reading so that kept him engaged. Aunty too was relatively free now and would often visit my home to spend leisurely afternoons chatting with my mother over a cuppa of Tea. The event was also special because Uncle’s mother,who was in her early 80s, was able to witness it and was moved to tears by seeing the huge swarm of people who had gathered for the celebration.
The event was also a celebration of a long and successful marriage wherein the couple had managed to do well by setting up a nuclear family, away from most relatives, and ensured that their children were educated and well-settled in life. Uncle had worked in the Government and Aunty had been a Home Maker. Money was surely ‘hard-to-come-by’ then and life in India, in the pre – liberalization days, was quite stolid and not so much of a chase to indulge in consumerism.
I remember the event mostly for the word of advice Uncle had for many youngsters on his secret of a long and successful marriage. Rather than mouth platitudes, he was honest enough to admit that the early days of marriage were quite stormy as both had asserted their independence. It may well have been that the economic realities and the conservative social milieu forced them to adjust initially. And once the kids came along they simply took so much of time and energy that little was left for any other distractions.
He also mused that the younger generation have become more about bigger egos and have scant regard for the patient nurturing that is essential in the early phase of a marriage. While it was well that youngsters wanted to settle themselves financially before getting married, the delay also made them less flexible in their attitudes. Finally life remains a game of ups and downs but many youngsters cannot see it beyond their current troubles. To imagine that things will never change for the better in life was a rather sad way to approach a long journey that is expected to span many decades.
Finally a girl protested that still many of our rituals were ‘male-centric’ and the traditional marriage was a typical arrangement wherein the husband worked and focused on his career while the wife stayed at home and focused on the family. For example why should we not celebrate ‘Shashti Poorthi’ when the wife celebrated her 60th birthday?
We all waited to watch uncle respond to the criticism. He deftly avoided wading further in troubled waters by cracking couple of jokes to lighten the mood. He said, ‘Well, ladies don’t usually wanted to acknowledge their true age and admit being 60. Possibly one reason why we have not had a lady US President so far – she will have to publicly admit that she is more than 35 years old.’
His response evoked a round of laughter from all who had gathered and people resumed the festivities.
Nearly twenty years after the function, I do acknowledge that it wasn’t a politically correct statement and the traditional marriages are on the wane in today’s consumerist India, as in many other places. But at the same time the battle of the sexes is not new at all and to conveniently ‘box’ all ailments in a marriage to be on account of it being a traditional one takes away many personalized nuances that are part of every such relationship. A commitment that has lasted nearly 4 decades of vicissitudes of time surely deserves better than that. So there was a bit of charm to the marriages of the yore that is missing in our ‘modern marriages’. Possibly the fairer sex did indeed get the thin edge of the wedge in those days but I also think that the benefits were derived by the children as well since they grew up in emotionally stable environments, even if they were a bit deprived of the latest gizmos.